Get Residents to Maintain Smoke Detectors

November 12, 2009
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With the year-end holidays approaching, many of the households at your site will be setting up holiday trees and other decorations that may pose a serious fire hazard to residents’ units as well as to your building. The possibility of a serious fire occurring underscores the need to comply with local building and housing codes for all of your tax credit-eligible units. Most of those codes require you to provide and maintain a smoke detector in each unit. And while smoke detectors were installed during construction or rehab, keeping them working is an ongoing responsibility. Failure to make sure that your smoke detectors are connected, work properly, and have fresh batteries at all times can result in a violation that can cost your site tax credits.

To avoid losing tax credits over a violation that is largely under your residents’ control, you need to get tough. One way is to have a one-warning policy on smoke detector maintenance and evict residents who violate it a second time. The policy should:

  • Require the household to keep its smoke detector operating at all times—that is, connected and with a fresh battery;
  • Require the household to notify you immediately if a smoke detector malfunctions or if it needs help replacing the battery; and
  • Tell the household that if you find that its smoke detector has been disconnected or has a dead battery, you will send a warning letter. If it happens again, you will sue to evict the household.

PRACTICAL POINTER: To make sure smoke detectors are working properly, it is a good idea to put smoke detector inspections on your preventative maintenance schedule twice a year.